Last weekend we took a trip out to a village far off the beaten track to visit some missionaries whom we'll call Josiah and Elizabeth (not their real names). John is the Regional Director for missionaries involved in evangelism and discipleship in this area and Josiah and Elizabeth are under his care, so we wanted to visit them where they live and work. Not only that, we've known each other ever since we started our missionary careers in the early '80's. Our Deputy International Director was visiting, so it was our privilege to have him go along with us.
We traveled on the paved road for a couple of hours and then headed off onto a dirt road that led through several villages until we came to the up-and-coming village where they live.
Their village has electricity several hours a day and is in a valley that allows a gardening industry to flourish. In spite of it's out-of-the-way location, merchants come from all over to buy produce there to sell in other markets. Surprisingly to us, since we had very few fruits and villages in the village where we lived for 16 years, they don't lack for many fruits and vegetables.
Josiah and Elizabeth live in a typical "apartment" complex. By that, I mean that there are four or five connected houses on their compound. Each one has a privacy wall around it, but neighbors are very close indeed. Elizabeth's kitchen sink, stove, and fridge are on the terrace which is kind of also an outside living room. Off the terrace is a bathroom with a shower and toilet. Inside the house is a room that runs the length of the house and which is their living room and dining room. Behind that are two bedrooms. They got a nice cross-breeze, but have no glass on their windows so there is no way to keep out the ever-present dust.
We had a late lunch with them and then had a walking tour of their village.
We were able to see the land that they've been able to purchase for a pastor's house, and as God works and blesses, a church, and possibly a school.
You'll notice that my pictures from the first day have a beautiful blue sky and from the second day the sky has no color. During the night a strong wind blew and by morning heavy harmattan had descended (and is still with us a week later!). By the way, harmattan is the dust that blows down from the Sahara Desert and hangs in the air like a thick fog.
The next day we had a service in Josiah and Elizabeth's home. A student from the secondary school, presumably the only Christian in the school, came to worship with us. After a shared meal we headed out to visit three of the evangelists in the area.
Each evangelist had his own story and we wished we had a longer time to get to know them better. They speak a different vernacular language than we do, so we were relying on Josiah to translate for us.
The first evangelist is young and he and his wife have one child. He shared with us how when he first came the people in the village were unkind and kept their distance from him, but now that they are seeing he is an honorable man of integrity, they are beginning to trust him.
We headed on through the bush to another village.
The evangelist there has a small church.
He and his wife have 10 children and, like the others, rely on his own farm to provide food for his family since the salary he receives is not enough to provide for his family. He was telling us that the town where he grew up is known as a Christian village. It is said that that town no longer hears the call to prayer. When we were there, his children were busy washing their clothes in preparation for school the next day.
As we approached the third village, Josiah led us through the back streets of a village, up one narrow lane and down another.
The third evangelist has several men who were already Christians when he came to the village, but he has had a hard time winning their trust. He has a thriving literacy ministry with over 20 children coming to learn to read and write. They range in age from 6 to 20.
He told how last year during the meningitis epidemic, over 20 children in his village died. They received a vaccine, but it was not for the strain of meningitis that was going around so it did no good in protecting the children.
In the village where we used to live, the kids were quick to gather around. Here they kept their distance more than I'm used to, and I had to work hard to finally make a little friend!
Josiah and Elizabeth visit these evangelists regularly. They feel that their work is best done in equipping these men. Josiah also travels to a Bible school about an hour a way every week to teach there.
As we headed back to the capital city, our Deputy International Director asked us what touched us most about the weekend. We both mentioned the enormous needs and how we could use so many more missionaries in the area to share the good news with those who are living and dying without ever having heard of Jesus. Then he shared that for him it is the way that Josiah and Elizabeth serve so faithfully without complaint. The entire weekend we were there, we didn't hear one word of complaint....not about where or how they live, not about the frustrations in the culture, not about the administration, not about how isolated they are. The closest they came to complaining was to state their frustration with their internet situation. And even then they said that there is nothing they can do about it, so they don't stress about it.
He's so right! I think the two things that characterizes Josiah and Elizabeth is that they are humble and uncomplaining. They know what God has called them to do and they just do it. They don't expect anybody to make life better or easier for them. They don't spend a lot of time traveling to the capital city for a break (which would not be wrong to do!), they just do their job. They are an amazing couple who don't look for any praise or glory. They are people we tend to take for granted because they stay out of the limelight.
I'd like to take both what impacted John and me and our Deputy International Director and say that we need more humble, uncomplaining servants to reach those who are living and dying without knowing Jesus. We don't need heroes or amazing people. We just need people who know what God has called them to do and who do it.